Have it Your Way

Have it Your Way

I watched my college math professor as he wrote an equation on the enormous wall-sized white board.  My stomach churned and I wanted to bolt out of the room.  Restlessness and agitation welled inside me and I thought to myself "why do I have to learn this crap?" 

Mr. Gerakios tossed his long curly black ponytail over his shoulder as he turned and looked the class.  "Algebra is important."  He said, as though he heard my thoughts.  "Algebra teaches you to follow and trust a process.  Order of Operations (PEMDAS) is unifying.  NASA needed scientists and mathematicians to agree on an order of operations so space exploration could be a universal endeavor." he went on to explain.

My eyes widened and at 37 years old, I began to understand math.  Math required humility and math is unifying.  His reasoning was not something I could argue with.   "Okay, I'll do it.  I do it YOUR way..." I thought to myself. "I'll learn it YOUR way."  For the first time in my life I passed a math class with more than a "D" and my dazzling personality. I earned my "B" in that class.  More valuable than the letter grade, however, was my new ability to understand that math is about humility; it's about understanding and trusting a process. (Jaime-2017).

GENERATION Z:   Mc Donalds is the king of "Have it your way" but the illness of the self-centeredness has seeped into our society like french fry grease in a sink drain.  Individuality is good. Self-centeredness is not good.  Perhaps Professor Gerakios was an enigma in this day and age.  "The classroom is the time for learning, save your rebellion for the streets!"  that statement stuck with me, delivered with his wry smile, one day in class.  My eyes shot up from my keyboard and I could hardly contain my excitement at the mere mention of a "rebellion in the streets"!  Professor Gerakios wasn't really encouraging a rebellion though, his point was that we need  a generation of humble, educated revolutionists, who knew when to learn and when to revolt. 

Why do students need to read and follow the directions at the top of a worksheet?  Why can't they just "do it their way"?  Why do students need to follow a process for a math equation?  Why can't they just "do it their way"?   The objective of learning is to validate or discard what you think you know.  In order to learn, you have to put aside "your way" and see another way as a possibility.  To learn you have to follow an unfamiliar process.  (*note: sometimes a students "way" is simply thinking "I can't".)

I'll tell you why... 

1. Humility.  Practice the skill of putting "your way" aside, so you can learn another way.  A new way might even be better than yours, especially if it's a foundation block that's necessary to future learning.  Accept that "your way" is not always the best way, nor is it the only way.  Trust the process.

2. The bigger picture. You may be able to compute small equations in your head, but you can't do large ones that way.  IF you decide to go onto college, you'll need to pass entry exams without a calculator.  If you fail entry exams, you will have to take these subjects again and pay for them.  Therefor it is wise for you to learn it now.  No one likes to waste time or money relearning.

3.  Out side the box: Consider that maybe "your" way is also a box that you're in.  It's your personal box.  Stepping outside of that box results in growth.  This especially applies to the "I can't" box (like my math experiences).

4. Self-learners.  Self-learners are not people who insist on doing things their way.  Self-learners are people who absorb, apply and retain knowledge on their own.   Self-learning process 1. Instructions 2. Think 3. Apply.  If you fail;  then try. try. again. 

5. Adulting.  The life experiences of an adult include both child and adult perspectives. The experience of a child is limited to a child perspective.  Quality educators can help you remove learning obstacles that don't show until later in life.   They can also give you keys to understanding that you'll never forget.

6. Do onto others.  This is a generation which may very well bypass college and go directly onto becoming great inventors, entrepreneurs, small business owners and free-lancers.  If that's the case, they will be in charge of their own processes, resulting in the need for employees, investors, manufacturers or customers to understand and apply their processes (see the irony?). Whether you believe in karma, the circle of life, God's Justice or simple irony, we can agree that humility and the ability to follow a process is important now, especially if our children grow to become leaders.  Humility prevents the abuse of power.  The ability to follow, results in great compassionate leadership.  Great teachers were once great students and the greatest compassionate leaders were once humble followers.  

I'm a huge fan of revolutions and marching to the beat of your own drummer, that's how SLS started, after all.  However there is a fine line between non conformity and arrogance.  The ability to comply with instructions requires humility, which is a beautiful virtue.  Remember the Kiwi (our logo) signifies when to give and when to receive, this also includes knowledge and instruction.